I thank Deputy Cairns for her question. I am disappointed at the outset to see the negative approach the Deputy is taking to the development of a PGI application for grass-fed Irish beef. I do not believe it reflects the positive dimensions of that initiative and what it can mean in terms of being able to try to promote our beef more abroad and, ultimately, try to add value to it.
The beef task force, which the Deputy referenced, was established to provide the leadership to develop a sustainable pathway for the future of the beef sector. The task force provides a robust implementation structure for commitments entered into in the beef sector agreement of 15 September 2019 last year, and it has timelines and includes strong stakeholder engagement. To be clear, the majority of the membership of the task force are farmer representative bodies. They are there to reflect and represent farmers' interests and do so robustly.
There have been six meetings of the task force to date and the next meeting is scheduled to be held later this month. I note that work has continued steadily towards fulfilling all the actions of the agreement, despite the Covid-19 crisis, which added a further layer of complexity and a significantly challenging working environment for the task force. Full details of the actions, progressive updates and meeting minutes are available on the website of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.
As part of the agreement, three specific consultancy studies, all of which relate broadly to market transparency, were commissioned. While these reports are behind schedule due to the challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic, my understanding is that they are progressing well. Two of the studies, one on competition law and the other on market and customer requirements, will be discussed at the next task force meeting.
I was pleased to have the opportunity to address the task force in September. At that meeting, I emphasised that constructive and meaningful engagement across this group is essential to maintaining and developing the sector in a sustainable way, which adds value at all stages of the supply chain, but particularly and importantly for the primary producer.
I believe the sector can rise to the many challenges facing it and that the task force has an important role to play. I look forward to seeing continuous strong engagement from the task force as its work progresses.